Leinster secure bonus-point win over Zebre
Published 09/02/2014 | 19:50
Leinster ran in four tries to deny Zebre back-to-back wins and keep pace with RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Munster with a bonus-point win.
Tries for John Cooney and Noel Reid either side of half time helped Leinster forget a slow start, after Dries van Schalkwyk gave the hosts the lead.
Zane Kirchner killed the game off to ensure Zebre would not win consecutive RaboDirect PRO12 games for the first time in their history, while Darren Hudson earned the bonus point late on.
Both sides had opportunities to open the scoring inside the first ten minutes and it was the hosts who found the opening try, after 14 minutes.
After a measured build-up, the Italian pack drove their way over the line, allowing van Schalkwyk to touch down - but Kelly Haimona could not add the extras.
Leinster reacted well to falling behind and, after putting the hosts under some sustained pressure, they took the lead after 22 minutes, courtesy of Cooney.
The Leinster scrum-half collected from the back of the scrum to dart between two defenders and dot down, for Jimmy Gopperth to complete a simple conversion.
The Irish province continued to probe away at Zebre but a resilient defence refused to allow them in for a second try.
And on the stroke of half time Leinster were forced to settle for a penalty, which Gopperth struck between the posts to open up a five-point lead at the break.
Luke McGrath capitalised on the first opening after half time but he was stopped five metres short, before Gopperth sent a penalty wide of the left upright five minutes later.
Leinster did eventually add to their score, and open up the healthiest lead of the match so far, after 55 minutes when Reid streaked clear to score under the posts, for Gopperth to convert.
Haimona - seconded from Calvisano to cover for international absentees - hit back for Zebre with a well-struck penalty shortly before the hour mark but the visitors were on the board next.
Further Leinster pressure paid off, when Kirchner collected a smart offload to burst under the posts and score a third try, while replacement Ian Madigan added the extras.
The Irish side went in search of a fourth try - and with it a fourth try bonus point of the season - but Darragh Fanning knocked-on agonisingly after breaking the last line of defence.
However, they finally got their reward two minutes from time when Hudson spilt a poor pass backwards, before picking it up, side-stepping his marker and crossing over - Madigan duly converted.